By Brandi Reynolds
The Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience met in the University Student Center last Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the growing effects of climate change.
The conference focused on regional vulnerability and resistance to change on local and global scales.
Jeff Goodell of Rolling Stone and author of “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Reshaping of the Civilized World” was among the speakers.
Goodell spent the past three years traveling the world to observe rising sea levels and means of adaptation in place by other communities. He returned to Pinellas County to share what he learned from his travels.
During the conference, he shared photos of himself walking around Alaska with former President Barack Obama and of him and his daughter at the Grand Canyon.
“I really do think that from my travels around the world there really is amazing opportunity here for a lot of really creative stuff,” Goodell said.
Audience member Janet M. Lewis, a plant breeding and genetic consultant of Science2Action, pushed panelists Dr. Maria Sgambati and former professor Lynn Ringenberg during the question and answer session. She questioned how climate change affects humans on a tangible level.
She said that as she is “not in the human health area […] the connection between climate change and human health is not always very obvious,” and, “in terms of asthma […] does asthma get worse with temperature rise? Are particulate matters somehow affected by changing climate? Those two things I don’t really understand.”
According to Ringenberg, “heat really does funny things to all those particulate matters.” She suggests that the best way to combat these “funny things” may lie with the aforementioned “creative stuff.”
Ringenberg said that increased heat suspends particulate matter in the air, and “heat and sunlight together kind of change things” by increasing particulate matter. She says it is important “not to be in areas where there’s a lot of particulate matter.”
Jacqueline Patterson, director of environmental and climate justice at NAACP, spoke on the possible local implications of climate change and sea level rise on St. Petersburg, as well as the initiatives already taken by the university to promote sustainability through the Student Green Energy Fund, the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2016 and its dedication to achieving carbon neutrality entirely by 2050.
Patterson said that while some coastal cities have implemented porous sidewalks and that it is a feasible option for St. Petersburg, there is a future in which people will inevitably have to relocate. According to Patterson, “it’s just a matter of time.”
Further discussion of the status of St. Petersburg throughout the conference revealed the Tampa Bay area to have the highest number of days with elevated levels of smog and pollution in the state — which has only been emphasized by the 430,000 gallon sewage spill in wake of hurricane Irma.
The conference took place over Wednesday and Thursday. It featured seven panels of experts in their respective fields spread out across the two days. For those interested in sustainable solutions to the various problems our planet faces today, the Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience Conference had something for everybody.
For Dr. Maria Sgambati, a consultant on environmental and human health issues, this is key.
“Our very lives depend on the planet,” she said.